The elephant in the room whenever I am talking to an athlete is the story of why they should do cardio. The reason it becomes an elephant is because I usually prescribe a heck of a lot less conditioning then people think they need.
“Coach, I was going to run 10 300 yard shuttles”
“Why the (favorite explicative here) are you doing that?”
“I have to get in shape for the season!”
“Are you planning on trying out for the 300 yard shuttle team?
This is where the confusion and my rage monster usually collide
See that statement and really let it soak in because it may not make sense at first. When we are thinking about what to do for conditioning, it is important to look at what we do for clues.
Let us for a second look at the demands for a pitcher
How long did that just take? Was that done at a slow and steady pace over a great distance?
Then why the heck are coaches and athletes still jogging and doing poles in order to condition their pitchers to throw at maximum velocity over 100 times in a start. Do you think the stamina and relationship are so well linked that we will see a tremendous improvement?
Not looking good for those athletes/coaches when they play my athletes.
You see, Eric Cressey made a great statement in one of his E-Books in regards to training athletes. He showed the athlete who spent his off-season working on his stamina and the contrast to an athlete who worked on his speed. Here is a small sample of what it looks like in regards to pitching (Not what Cressey used, if you want his stuff you have to buy it)
|#of Pitches||Athlete A||Athlete B|
So what do we notice here, the athlete on the left spent time getting bigger and stronger. Athlete A worked on his plane specific power and focused on refining technique. Athlete B spent his off-season doing a ton of volume and general conditioning in order to make sure he could hold up deep into his starts.
Athlete A loses velocity 4x faster than athlete B, but is STILL throwing faster after 90 pitches.
What does this mean in real time performance. Well, athlete A most likely has a better ERA and higher strikeout rate. Their abilities are higher because their body was conditioned to throw faster, not just throw for longer.
For all of athlete B’s best intentions, the time spent wasting away on general conditioning for improved stamina decreased power production and reduced effectiveness when it mattered most.
This isn’t just a baseball problem
Athletes in every sport are so caught up in conditioning that they forget to focus on the things that make them an impactful player. Rarely in my career has my most explosive and most well regarded athlete also been the best conditioned.
In fact, having a higher propensity to be explosive makes your body work harder during any effort. Fast twitch athletes gas out doing long slow distance. If the premise of most sports is to go from A to B faster than the player on Team X, than we want athletes loaded with fast twitch fibers!
Wouldn’t that mean less conditioned athletes?
Now, I am not trying to sell you that “cardio” is all bad. Basic aeriobic capacity can help improve recovery time not only between bouts of exercise but also post-op from surgery. In fact I am seeing an athlete in the next few days ho is coming off of elbow surgery. His first order of business when he resumes training is building an aerobic base.
Legendary coach Dan John likes to say that if him or his athlete throws the discuss the farthest in the world at that time, they also are the most “fit” athlete in their sport.
This harkens back to the idea that conditioning for conditioning’s sake isn’t the goal, the goal is to get to a level of conditioning that allows you to express your ability in your sport. If we do more than this we are wasting time that would be better spent being more bad-ass
So what are the take home points
- If you play a sport that a play lasts less than 3 seconds of intense effort
- Here you should do high intensity work with long slow distance cardio only for basic recovery
- If you play a sport that last between 5-10 seconds
- Still not much traditional cardio, but you can add in runs of 10 seconds to your conditioning at times
- If you play a sport where you are moving for continues but random bouts of activity
- Simulate this in your conditioning! Mix the variables in order to get a more holistic approach. You run less in soccer at high speed than you think, but you also walk a ton. Stop telling people you run 3 miles a game
- If you are in a combat sport
- All the rules change!
The best bet is truly breaking down your sport and figuring your needs. Or you can join the mailing list where I will be sending out a conditioning newsletter in a couple week. Shameless plug? Sure.
Have to wait to find out.
|#of Pitches||Athlete A||Athlete B|